The South African sevens side – otherwise known as the Blitzbokke – currently stand as the second best side in world sevens rugby right now and will be heading into the Rio Olympics with hopes sky high for Olympic gold.
The Blitzbokke were without doubt one of the predominant quality sides of the 2015/16 World Series circuit as they were genuine title challengers for seven of the ten legs, coming third in Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Singapore while finishing as runners-up at the Wellington, London and Vancouver legs. South Africa did manage to claim the number one spot at their home event where they defeated Argentina 29-14 in the final.
The quality within the South African sevens squad is unquestioned with the likes of current World Series Sevens player of the year Werner Kok having been named in the squad despite missing the entirety of the 2015/16 season with a knee injury.
While Kok’s class ensured his place within the plane to Brazil, other star talent did not prove to be as lucky with Byran Habana unable to break into the Olympic squad despite his generational talent. Francois Hougaard and Ryan Kankowski were other XV disciples that did not successfully make the leap, even though Hougaard has been included as one of the two travelling replacements. 14-time capped Springbok Juan de Jongh has however been named in the squad.
The Blitzbokke have been staging one-off tournaments on home soil so as to cement their preparations ahead of the tournament where they have been grouped with France, Australia and Spain. Speaking to the press head coach Neil Powell detailed the challenge that awaits:
“For us for the season, it was important to finish either first or second,” added Powell. “We knew that Pool C is going to be a tough pool… with four top circuit teams. Playing France first is going to be a tough one. With France, you never know what you’re going to get. If they pitch up on the day, then you’ll probably get the best team in the world.”
“Although we have a good track record against Australia this year – we’ve played them eight times, beat them six times, lost two times – nothing is a given out there. You still have to respect every single opponent you play against, even Spain, that we’re going to play in the second game of the tournament.
“It’s going to be different. One-off tournaments are different. They’re will put everything they have into every single game they will play, and you must make sure that you are 100-percent ready for those Games and that you’ve done your homework on those different opponents.”
The Blitzbokke’s 2015/16 season came to a bitterly disappointing end when reputation would have suggested that the London sevens title was in the bag as they came up against Scotland in the final only to lose out by a single point. While South Africa are one of the favourites to succeed in Rio, such is the nature of sevens that anyone can win on the day thus meaning Powell’s men must not take anything for granted.
(source via olympic.org)